Rise of Indian Nationalism 1885-1905

India has been the subjection of British for a long time. They tortured Indians in many ways and also took away their assets and properties for their personal use. Although the condition of the Indians was not that good yet they were not tolerant and fought many times for their liberty. Every fight or revolt they organized before 1885 was failed, not completely but eventually. By the year 1900 the sense of Nationalism was growing rapidly among Indians and they stood together to fight for their right. Surendra Nath Banarjee and Bal Gangadhar Tilak are considered to be the father of the Nationalism.

Indian Nationalism and Social Reforms

However the Indian Nationalism had a widespread impact on upcoming years, it was greatly influenced by few important Social reforms. It won’t be fair if we don’t talk about them. So the few most important social reforms were:

  1. Brahma Samaj can be considered the earliest social reform that had an impact of nationalism. It was founded by Raja Ram Mohan Rai in 1828. It was an Indian awakening reform.
  2. Prarthana Samaj was established by Dr. Atmaram Pandurang in the year 1867. It taught people the lesson of universal brotherhood and unity.
  3. Arya Samaj by Swami Dayanand Saraswati in year 1875 also played a very key role in igniting the fire of Nationalism among the people of India.
  4. Theosophical Society, founded in 1875 by Madam Blavatsky was a great source of nationalism and inspired them a lot.

Instead of these reforms, there were few reformers who helped in changing the mind of Indians individually. They were Pandit Ishwar Chandra Vidysagar, Kendukuri Veeresalingam, Jyotiba Phule, and Swami Vivekanand etc.

Causes of Indian Nationalism

By the year 1885, the thought of Nationalism was increasing rapidly among the Indians. They had become aware of their right and were also ready to fight for their freedom but the seed of nationalism that grew in their minds was not just an instant incident but like a tree growing for a long time. There were many factors which raised the sense of nationalism among Indians, few of them are:

  1. Western Education and learning of English helped a lot in filling their spirit with Nationalism. The few people who had Western Education and knew English could talk to British and understand them. Also they were effective among other Indians and they emerged as their leaders. They knew well the meaning of liberty, fraternity and were able to gather mass and unite them to fight together.
  2. Another big reason for the rise of Nationalism was the exploitation of Indians by the British. British destroyed the Industries of Indians and robbed their properties. Also they grabbed the lands, houses and other assets of Indians which was not lawful.
  3. Lord Lytton was the viceroy of India that time and under his subjection, Indians were facing the racial discrimination. British were given priority over Indians because of their fair colors and Indians were insulted almost everywhere. It created a deep sense of discontentment and raised nationalism among Indians and especially middle class and poor Indians. Also a bill was passed against the discrimination but the bill itself was opposed by the British and was later modified.
  4. By that time, Telegraph, Railway and Postal Services had been introduced in India and they made it easier for Indians to meet, communicate each other. Now they could easily meet and plan to organize freedom movements and fight against the British. It helped a lot to fill them with nationalism.
  5. The Indian Press working in English and other vernaculars proved to be the most important tool to raise nationalism among Indians. These presses usually printed the works of literary writers like Ravindranath Tagore and others which were devoted to the nation which helped in spreading a unity and nationalism among people.


Despite all these, there were many other reasons which led the rise of Nationalism in their minds as it was very important to awake, unite and fight for what belongs to them.

A widespread nationalism was born by 1885 but there was a need of co-operation. With a huge population and different types of people, it was very important to understand everyone’s need and work according to them so that a sense of oneness can be created.

The duration from 1885 to 1905 was a very important time in the years of struggle for freedom of India. This duration was called the Moderate Phase and the important and effective leaders of this phase were termed as Moderates.

Formation of Indian National Congress

In 1885, Allan Octavian Hume (A.O. Hume) who was a member of Imperial Civil Services, Dinshaw Edulji Wacha who was a Parsi Indian Political Leader and Dadabhai Naoroji and Unofficial Ambassador of India together formed an all India Political Organization which was named as “Indian National Congress”.

Indian National Congress

The first session of Indian National Congress was held in year 1885 in Bombay which was presided by Wyomesh Chandra Banarjee who was a great leader of that time. 72 People all across the country participated in the first session of Indian National Congress and delegated their people and put their problems. These delegates were some leaders from their groups and represented their people without difference of any cast, religions, color or status.

Consequently Indian National Congress held its second and third sessions in 1886 and 1887 in Calcutta and Madras respectively. From the foundation of Indian National Congress to the achievement of Independence, the Indian struggle was divided in three phases which are as follows:


  • Moderate Phase: From its foundation to the year 1905, the duration was called moderate phase and its leaders were termed as Moderates.
  • Extremist Phase: Extremist Phase led from 1905 to 1917 and its leaders were extremists.
  • Gandhian Phase: From 1917 to 1947 was the Gandhian Phase.

The few important leaders who played an important role and were termed as moderates were Dadabhai Naoroji (the Grand old man of India), A. O. Hume, Badruddin Tyabji (the third president and first Muslim president of Indian National Congress), Mahadev Govind Ranade, Madan Mohan Malviya (Mahamana) and many others.

Who were Moderates

The early political leaders like Surendra Nath Banarjee, Dadabhai Naoroji and W. C. Banarjee believed that the British Government was doing well for India. They must rule over India but there must be participation of Indians also in the administration. These leaders were very satisfied with the British Government and assumed it beneficial for the development of India.

They further believed that there must be some changes in the form of Government to make it more effective for us so they insisted for it peacefully and lawfully. These leaders were called Moderates.

  • Views of the Moderates:

The moderates believed that British were governing them very well. They were developing the nation and seeking the farewell of the Indians. However the Government was rude for some times but the time has changed now. The Moderates also wanted that British Government should continue ruling in India but there must be some structural changes in the form of the government and also in the criteria they work according to which. There must be some reputable posts in the Government for Indians also.

  • Methods of Working of Moderates:

Moderates were very peace loving persons and wanted a co-operation of British and Indians to create a good Nation. They followed the Constitution and constitutionally acted for their demands to be fulfilled. Because they were the representatives of Indian people so they knew that the anger of Indians is due to the ignorance of British Government and so they urged the Government to work for it.

The Moderates followed the concept of P-P-P i.e. Peace, Protest and Petition to fulfill their requirements.

  • Demands:

The Moderates had several demands. These demands were put by the delegates according to the need of their people. Few of them were as-

  • Places for Indians in the Government to represent Indians and solve their problems.
  • They demanded for self rule (Swaraj) within the British Government.
  • Education must be for everyone and provide them education to let them know their rights.
  • Demanded for Indian Civil Services Exams for Indians like Imperial Civil Services for British.
  • They demanded for freedom of speech and expression and also the freedom of association as these were not allowed for Indians at that time.
  • Improvement of Police System to make it honest and dutiful.

There were also many other demands of Moderates like cancellation of Arm Act and License Act, Employment of Indians in Administration, freedom for press etc.

  • Achievements of Moderates:

The moderates believed in peaceful demand and followed the same lawfully. They were not completely but mostly successful in gaining what they were asking for. They achieved few major changes which were-

  • They succeeded in creating a thought of Nationalism among Indians and spreading awareness to their rights.
  • The few Moderates stood against some Social Evils like Child-Marriage and Widowhood.
  • The words Democracy, Liberty and Equality have been popular among Indians.
  • One of the greatest achievements was the Indian Council Act 1892.
  • The Indian Council Act of 1892 expanded the size of Legislative Council.
  • Failures of Moderates:

The Moderates worked on the principle of peaceful achievement of Self-rule and they achieved much but they were not completely successful. They failed in many ways and the reasons for their failure are being detailed here-

  1. There method of peaceful achievement was followed by only few educated people and failed to gain mass co-operation.
  2. They failed because they demanded for only Swaraj (Self-Rule) and not Purna Swaraj which was the demand of the majority of Indians.
  3. The youngsters of that time did not like the concept of peaceful demanding as they were very angry with British Government.
  4. Extremist and there ways of working were also highly liked by the people of India.

Thus on the basis of above provided data we can say that the moderators were in support of British Government and they asked for Swaraj only, not Purna Swaraj because they believed that only British can develop the nation. It is also said that the Moderates were like the safety valve of British Government.

Rise of Extremists

The method of working of Moderates was not highly interested and praised by the people of India so they gained a very less support. The fall of Moderates gave rise to the Extremists. The Extremists were the person who believed that Swaraj is their birth right and worked on attaining it. They did not provide support to the Government and boycotted the foreign goods and used only Indian Goods.

The three important extremist leaders were Lala Lajpat Rai, Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Bipin Chandra Pal. These three were famous as Lal-Bal-Pal and were highly gaining the support of the public.

Impact of Nationalism in India

The Nationalism in Indians was a cause of fear for British Government. He knew that if this sentiment took a huge form, a great crisis could befall the British government. To reduce its devastating effect, the British government took several steps which can be considered as the impact of Nationalism which were:

  1. The enabled the people of India to stand collectively and fight for their liberty.
  2. They understood their power and ability to fight with British Government.
  3. All the different communities of the British India were together for their justice.
  4. The British Government was in fear for the first time and it could be seen by his immediate actions.

Apart from these, it also led some negative impact such as:

  1. Nationalism proved the unbreakable power of Indians to British Government which broke by diving Indians in Hindu and Muslim.
  2. British supported Muslims to create their own political parties and separate them from Hindus.

Partition of Bengal

In 1905, Lord Curzon was the viceroy of British India and on 19th July 1905 Curzon declared the partition of Bengal however the partition took effect from 16th October of that year.

Reason of Bengal Partition

The Bengal was a vast province constituting two parts East Bengal and West Bengal. The British Government said that Bengal has a huge area and so it becomes challenging to manage the population of vast Bengal.

But the actual reason behind the partition of Bengal was to make it a Muslim majority province. It was a part of ‘Divide and Rule’ policy of British Government. They wanted to create a difference between Hindu and Muslims and them from each other.

Literally the Indians were uniting under Extremists. The British Government could see her fall clearly and they had only one option left with them. It was Divide and Rule. Dividing Hindus and Muslims and partition of Bengal was the first step from where the path to create a new country for Muslims as Pakistan was started.

The Moderate Phase many major changes. The partition of Bengal increased the anger among Indians and they were very well aware of the policy of the British Government. It led to many protests and important movements for freedom which became the reason for the Independence of India from British Government in 1947.



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